‘Bless Their Hearts’: Church’s ‘judgey’ paintings good for a giggle

‘Bless Their Hearts’: Church’s ‘judgey’ paintings good for a giggle

“People are judgey. Growing up in the South, people are judgey out loud — bless their hearts,” laughs Caity Church.

An artist perhaps better known on the Arkansas Public Theatre stage, Church has her first solo exhibit in the APT’s Zephyr Blevins Gallery through the run of the summer musical, “Disaster.” Her anthropomorphic paintings picture animals looking over their reading glasses to judge everyone while sipping tea, coffee or spirits.

“The animals make the art whimsical, and they are more fun to paint than people,” she says, laughing again. “Plus, animals really do look at you like they have strong opinions about what you’re wearing.”

Church had strong opinions about art from pretty much the beginning of her life.

“My dad went to art school and became an architect; my mom has always enjoyed painting and started a hand-painted dinnerware business,” she explains. “I grew up with their art in our home, so I started creating visual art at an early age — mostly drawing. I used to love coming up with cartoon characters and drawing comic strips.

“I feel like my love for visual and performance art developed simultaneously, but I had more confidence in visual art at a young age,” she adds. “Art was something I could just do on my own and then say, ‘look, I made this!’ and hang it on your wall. But acting was harder to ‘publish.’ As a kid, I was always putting on ‘shows’ with my friends and cousin, and even my brother, and then making silly commercials or videos when that kind of technology was more available. I didn’t know classes and community theater were something I could do until high school.”

Both art and theater took a back seat when Church became a single mom to daughter Maysie while also working full time as a middle-school teacher.

“There were several years where I did not create much,” she admits. “I missed it. It was almost like that part of me was trapped somewhere behind my grown-up responsibilities, buried in parenthood, calling to be let out. I started to make it a point to find time and space to be creative so I wouldn’t lose that part of my identity.”

As Maysie got older — she’s 14 now — Church had more free time, but invested much of it in theater. She’s played Sandy in “Grease,” Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show,” the title character in “Peter Pan,” Roxy Hart in “Chicago” — all on the APT stage — plus Donna Sheridan in the Pilot Arts production of “Mamma Mia,” all the while developing a voice that just gets better with age.

It wasn’t until covid-19 struck Northwest Arkansas in the early spring of 2020 that Church found herself with time on her hands.

“My mother-in-law suggested I create an art tutorial YouTube channel while I was sitting around at home, so I gave it a shot,” she remembers. “Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing, and my equipment was very basic, but I made a few ‘You Can Create Art’ videos that I can’t even find on YouTube anymore. That led to making more art to pass the time and eventually to looking for other avenues for selling what I was making, so I applied to be a part-time vendor at the Bentonville Farmers Market Art Market. My first market was in April of 2021.”

Much of what Church sells at market is her “wearable art.”

“I make earrings out of wood, collage, polymer and foam clay, shrink plastic … really anything that I think might make an earring,” she says. “They are all colorful, dangly and pretty gawdy. I call it ‘wearable art’ because the term jewelry sounds too fancy for what it is. I make charms for keychains and necklaces, too.”

The “judgey” series started with watching drag queen competitions on TV, Church says — “they put on glasses to ‘read each other,’ which is basically a friendly roast” — combined with a request from a friend for “a llama wearing glasses and sipping tea because llamas look like they’re judging everyone they look at.”

“I liked the idea so, just for fun, I painted a cat wearing glasses and sipping tea. I didn’t have a series in mind at that time, but I could feel ideas cooking!” Now, she says, “it’s really cool to see all of the original canvases displayed in one room. And it’s nice to know that they’ll be enjoyed by the patrons of ‘Disaster’ and the film series. It’s a proud moment!”



Gallery Hours

Hours at the Zephry Blevins Gallery inside the historic Victory Theatre are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and on performance days, 7-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. arkansaspublictheatre.org.

Categories: Galleries